Kurt Warner is being courted by an eager division rival of the Arizona Cardinals.
The San Francisco 49ers sent a private jet Monday for the two-time MVP quarterback, who traveled from Phoenix to the 49ers' Silicon Valley training complex. He underwent a physical exam and had a meeting with their top brass.
Warner led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl last season, but became a free agent when he didn't re-sign with the club. Arizona has offered a two-year, $20 million contract to Warner, but he's apparently seeking a deal worth at least $14 million per season.
For the right offer, the former St. Louis Rams star seems willing to leave Arizona, his home for the past four seasons. The 49ers have a new coach and a decent amount of talent, but no proven starting quarterback _ so they rolled out the red-and-gold carpet for Warner.
"It's still up in the air," San Francisco general manager Scot McCloughan said while leaving the complex about 30 minutes before Warner departed in a stretch Range Rover limousine. "We're very excited he's willing to come visit us and possibly be a 49er. ... He's a very classy guy, and you can see why he's been so successful in his career, the way he carries himself."
NFC West rival San Francisco finished just two games behind the Cardinals in second place last season, and the club has enough cap room to accommodate Warner's salary wishes. Among the Niners' many obstacles would be enticing Warner, who will be 38 years old by training camp, to uproot his large family again.
After flying into San Jose, Warner and his wife, Brenda, arrived at the 49ers' training complex shortly before lunchtime. He had lunch and a meeting with McCloughan and coach Mike Singletary before traveling to Stanford Hospital for his exam.
Warner returned to the complex in a Cadillac driven by 49ers athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson at about 4 p.m. Warner mouthed the words "I'm not talking" through the window to reporters as they drove through a security gate.
The Warners were expected to fly home Monday night, but McCloughan and owner Jed York indicated they might have dinner plans or further discussions before he returned to Phoenix.
Warner proved he's still at the top of his talents last season. After claiming the Cardinals' starting job from Matt Leinart, Warner passed for 4,583 yards and 30 touchdowns, leading the franchise to its first division title since 1975. He also starred in four playoff games, completing 68 percent of his passes for 1,147 yards and 11 TDs.
Singletary has been unwilling to designate veteran Shaun Hill as his starter for next season even after Hill led San Francisco to five wins in its final seven games and a 7-9 record that knocked the interim tag off Singletary's title. Hill has been an effective quarterback over the past two seasons, going 7-3 as a starter, but he doesn't have the arm strength or pedigree that wows coaches.
Alex Smith, the injury-plagued former No. 1 draft pick, is working on restructuring his contract to stay with the 49ers, who'll release him if they can't reach a deal with a much lower base salary than the $9 million in his current contract.
The 49ers might not be the ideal football fit for Warner, who would leave a lineup with star receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin to join a run-based offense with no proven pass-catchers _ although Warner's arrival might persuade longtime Rams teammate Isaac Bruce to put off retirement for another season.
San Francisco's biggest signing Monday also pointed to another reason Warner might not be perfectly suited for the Niners. Fullback Moran Norris signed a three-year contract to return to the 49ers, who have repeatedly said they plan to build a run-first offense around running back Frank Gore and new coordinator Jimmy Raye.
But Warner met with Raye and quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson on Monday afternoon, talking football and weighing his options.
"We just said hello," York said of his interaction with Warner. "He's a great guy, class act, great person."
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